In order to celebrate Jamaican Independence Day I wanted to go back to the early days of Reggae. Before Roots, before Dub, before Rocksteady, before Dancehall, there was Ska. Here’s a record I bought from a Reggae record seller called King Bravo out of his his Reggae van. This cat was straight from JA, and he had the records to prove it. I loved the label on this early Ska piece, so I grabbed it a few years ago, and am happy to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence with it. This is a great side in The Blues Busters with “Wings of a Dove” on Soul from 1965.
Phillip James and Lloyd Campbell were The Blues Busters. One of the earliest and most popular duos on the island in the early 60’s, The Blues Busters started out like many (including Bob Marley) by doing versions of American R & B. Their popularity throughout the resorts of Jamaica led them to be the opener when the great Sam Cooke toured the island. Working primarily with Byron Lee (of the Dragonaires fame) but also with Lloyd Charmers and Neville Hinds, they would eventually find their way to New York City via the 1964 World’s Fair to perform. Taking the opportunity to record their first full length Behold How Sweet It Is, their early sound is soulful Ska. Their melodies and spirit of the times they played with Sam would come back full circle as they recorded a tribute record to the star in the late 70’s.
Taking cues from everyone from Sam and Dave, the Drifters, and Sam Cooke (of course) among many others, they would eventually follow their Soul passion and record Soul music here in the States, while their peers took advantage of the Ska and Rocksteady music explosion back in their homeland. Their R & B vocals remind me of my Dad’s all acapella street records (on red vinyl no less) sung over their own Rocksteady beat. It’s true that they were trying to emulate their US counterparts, but I feel more like it was a tribute to the greats with their own Jamaican twist. Whatever the case, this early Ska is beautiful. It’s what really drew me into Reggae music in the first place, and has always held a special place for me. From “My Boy Lollipop” and “Jamiaca Ska” to “Phoenix City” and beyond, you can not go wrong with this genre.
Here’s a FMF tribute to the independence of Jamaica from two of the islands greatest voices. Happy 50 years Jamaica!
The Blues Busters Do Muscle Shaols “Don’t Lose Your Good Thing”